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The Perfect Push Up

The Perfect Push Up Exercise Gimmick Although push-ups are the most rudimentary exercise in existence, multiple companies have produced ridiculous gimmicks to help you do the Perfect Push-up!

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Research Blogging Awards 2010 Finalist Obesity Panacea has been named a Finalist for the 2010 Research Blogging Awards! You can see all the nominees by clicking on the link below.

Fast-food and student obesity

Sunday, December 28, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
Photo by ebruli.


I came across two interesting articles on the weekend regarding nutrition in the United States. The first, from the Washington Post, discusses ways that President-elect Obama may use food assistance programs to improve the quality of food - and hopefully the health - of individuals receiving food stamps.

The other article was published on the website of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) last week (For an article interviewing lead author Brennan Davis, click here.). In the AJPH article, authors Davis and Carpenter examined how students in California were influenced by the proximity of fast-food outlets to their schools. Not surprisingly, the authors report that students attending schools within a half-mile of fast-food outlets consumed fewer fruits and vegetables and more pop than students attending schools more than a half-mile from fast-food outlets. Further, the risk of being either overweight or obese was roughly 7% higher in schools near fast-food restaurants.

When I think about my own life, these findings make sense. There is a pizza outlet right next to our lab at Queen's that is open from September until April. During the months that they are open, I tend to buy myself a slice of pizza at least once a week (I think Peter will agree that's a very conservative estimate). However, in the summer, I tend to either bring my own lunch or walk to a grocery store with Peter and buy ingredients to make myself a fresh sandwich. If they were open year-round, I would be eating 15-20 extra slices of pizza pepperoni pizza every year. When fast-food is the most convenient option, like many people, I will give in to temptation more than I would like. Why should teenagers be any different?

Although the 7% increased risk of obesity in schools within a half mile of fast-food outlets does not sound huge, the study by Davis and Carpenter still serves as a reminder of the important role that the environment plays in the obesity epidemic. Keep in mind that fast-food outlets tend to cluster near schools. For example, roughly 80% of schools in the Chicago area are within a half-mile of fast-food, and the average distance is just over a quarter of a mile. Reducing students' access to fast-food (both in and out of school) is one simple step we can take to help lower the rates of overweight and obese youth in Canada and other western nations.

TJS

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High fructose corn-syrup videos

Friday, December 26, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
I recently commented on evidence suggesting that fructose may be only as bad as table sugar, and argued that we should not get too excited when the bar is set so amazingly low. Not surprisingly, the corn industry has created several ads putting a delightful spin on foods sweetened with high fructose corn-syrup. After all "... like table sugar, it is fine in moderation."





Luckily there are also some very funny spoofs of these ads online - I have posted my favourite below. I hope everyone has had a great holiday season so far and have a great weekend!

TJS


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Dangerous Diet Pills

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
A big thanks to Peter for carrying the load the past few days while I traveled home to New Brunswick for the Holidays (I arrived safely this morning). We will do our best to continue posting throughout the Holiday season, although we may post slightly less often than usual as we are both traveling to visit family over the next week or so.

I came across this very interesting video this afternoon on the CNN website. According to the report, several over the counter weight loss medications being sold in the United States contain prescription medications as active ingredients, sometimes in very high doses (both of which are big no-no's). Further, some of these diet pills contain medications and chemicals which have not even been approved by the FDA for sale within the USA. For example, they report that Rimonabant, which was pulled from trials earlier this year due to concerns that it could lead to depression and suicidal ideation (and has not been approved by the FDA), is nonetheless listed as an active ingredient in one of these over the counter diet pills. Possible carcinogens and other prescription medications are also listed as active ingredients in other diet pills. According to Dr Janet Woodcock of the FDA "Consumers have no way of knowing that these products contain powerful drugs that could cause serious health consequences".

Frequent readers of the blog will know that Peter and I are not fans of over the counter diet pills in general. Unfortunately this report suggests that diet pills aren't just bad because they are often ineffective as we have argued in the past, but because they can also be outright dangerous.

TJS

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Fitness Tip: The Benefits of a Single Exercise Session

Monday, December 22, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses

So you’ve been thinking about introducing some more physical activity into your life? You’ve heard about all the benefits, you’ve seen the success stories, and still the thought of getting the recommended 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week mortifies you? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, although physical activity is often recommended by physicians, more than half of the North American population fails to achieve a recommended level of activity. What deters many from beginning an exercise program is the thought of moving from a lifestyle that is completely sedentary to one that involves daily activity – quite a drastic change, indeed! It is true that to obtain the greatest health benefits and to shed unwanted pounds you must perform physical activity as recommended – that is, on a regular basis. However, did you know that you can get numerous health benefits from just a single physical activity session? Just a brisk walk with the dog for about 30 minutes after tonight’s dinner, and you will have significantly improved a number of health parameters. Even more, some of these effects may even last until tomorrow or the day after. This is known among exercise physiologists as the acute effect of exercise – read on to find out the details.


Let’s start with insulin sensitivity, or the ease by which the insulin produced by your pancreas is able to remove the excess blood sugar after a meal and store it in your muscle and liver. Poor insulin sensitivity is a key factor in the development of type-II diabetes. Interestingly, a single physical activity session of an intensity which causes you to breathe a little heavy and maybe break a bit of a sweat can improve your insulin sensitivity by up to 25%! This improvement is on par with what is achieved through regularly taking insulin-sensitizing drugs – and it happens just after one brisk walk. Additionally, this effect can last for up to 48 hours after the activity was performed.


How about your blood lipid levels? Excess blood lipids can lead to dangerous plaque build-up in your arteries, predisposing to heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, just one brisk walk can significantly lower your triglyceride levels and increase levels of the good, HDL-cholesterol. Unlike the effects on insulin sensitivity, which occur almost immediately after activity, the improvements in blood lipid levels take a day or two to come into effect.


High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, coronary heart disease and its reduction is associated with a significant decrease in the risk of cardiovascular related mortality. The acute effect of physical activity on blood pressure was in fact one of the earliest documented – named post-exercise hypotension (‘hypo’ being the opposite of ‘hyper’, as in hypertension). Especially among individuals with elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, a single session of physical activity can lower your systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 11 and 6 mmHg, respectively. Much like with insulin sensitivity, the effect is almost immediate and can last until the following day. In fact, even 15 minutes of low intensity activity can lead to reductions in blood pressure – that’s a walk around the block - literally!


So there you have it – just one 30-minute brisk walk and look at the improvements to your health. Knowing that every little bit helps should aid you in the transition from couch potato to a healthy and active lifestyle. While the benefits of a single physical activity session are indeed encouraging, the key to optimal health is physical activity performed for 30 minutes on most days of the week.


So get out there and get active!



[NOTE] Today's post is an article I wrote eariler this year for the SpeakWell Newsletter, which I encourage our readers to check out. As I will be away for the holidays, today's post will be my last until after the new year. Travis will be posting solo until I get back, though, given the holidays, I assume less regularly than usual.


Happy holidays to everyone!


PJ

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Wealth and Obesity: A Brief History

Monday, December 22, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 1 Response
The Fat Man's Club of Van Zandt County, April 1894. Minimum member weight of 200 lbs.


A recent post by fellow blogger and friend, Dr. Arya Sharma, brought my attention to a new publication indicating that at least among Canadian men, wealth appears to be a positive predictor of obesity. While these findings are contrary to current dogma (an inverse gradient between socio-economic status and obesity), as I commented on Arya’s blog, such associations were the norm in our not-so-distant past.


The development of agriculture during the Neolithic Revolution allowed many of those in high power to indulge in large feasts and to significantly increase their weight. Soon after, fatness became an overt physical representation of one’s power or rank. During the mid 18th century, it was the rubenesque figure which was ideal among women, while fat men were considered most attractive. In fact, thinner men stuffed their shirts to conform to the heavy ideal and to heighten their status in society.


So popular was the endomorphic body type during this period that even a “Fat Man’s Club” was founded in 1866. This club was obviously exclusive to men who had achieved a suitable level of adiposity, but was also associated with power, prestige, and wealth of its members.


Then, in the early 20th century, abundant food supplies became available to even to lowest social ranks. Quickly, body ideals in both men and women took a sharp turn, and excess adiposity started becoming unwanted and stigmatized. Predictably, the demise of the Fat Man’s Club followed in 1903.


As an anecdote, I can remember my grandma (who lived in Poland during WWII and its long aftermath) commenting on the attractiveness of a “gentleman with a belly” – which in her eyes indicated wealth and aristocracy. So even though The Fat Man’s Club in England had long disbanded by the time my grandma was an adult, it appears that the obese ideal stuck around a bit longer in Poland – likely on account of the food scarcity which persisted in that country even into my lifetime (one of the many reasons my parents and I emigrated).


Currently, with the exception of the unique finding discussed by Arya, low socio-economic status is a strong predictor of obesity likelihood in Western countries – likely in Poland as well.


It is interesting, however, how something which was once the norm (obese = rich) is today, for the most part, reversed (obese = poor). If the aforementioned study was published just a century ago the observation in men would only confirm what most know, and we’d be discussing the ‘controversial’ finding that wealthier women tend to be thinner.

PJ

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Fitness Tip: Take the Stairs

Friday, December 19, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 2 Responses
It may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how few people use the stairs as opposed to an elevator or escalator. Take the below photo I took while attending the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference back in 2005 (Denver, CO). Note the obvious discrimination against stair use by the attending sports medicine professionals. Only the gentleman on the far left seems to be contemplating his options, while the rest resort to the automated assistance of the escalator.
This photo is particularly disconcerting given that it was taken almost directly after a keynote speech by Dr. Steven Blair. For those who have not heard the name, Dr. Blair (who I had the pleasure of meeting at that conference) is one of the most prominent figures in the area of physical activity epidemiology. He has for many years produced evidence which shows that minimal levels of physical activity (30 minutes on most days) are associated with enormous decrements in disease and mortality risk. (We will be discussing the impact of Dr. Blair’s work in more detail in future posts.)

Thus, to avoid being called a hypocrite, I recently decided to practice what I preach. That is, as of about 2 months ago, I have given up the use of elevators/escalators whenever reasonable. As I live on the 5th floor, I manage to get my heart rate up at least a few times every day. Additionally, the Physical Education Centre at Queen’s University, where Travis and I work, has only one dilapidated elevator so I accumulate some stair climbing at work as well – running back and forth from my supervisor’s office (1 floor above).

Of course, I am fairly reasonable about this rule, and have in fact used an elevator in the past 2 months – but it has probably been less than a dozen times. For example, when I got my wisdom teeth extracted a few weeks back, I refrained from using the stairs. Also, whenever I go shopping, and the load is too much to carry, I will sacrifice the stair climb – but even then, I have on numerous occasions loaded up the elevator with my girlfriend in it, and then ran up the stairs and picked up the shopping bags when they arrive.

It is important to note that every little bit of physical activity accumulated throughout the day counts. Thus, while taking the stairs a few times a day is not equal to jogging for 60 minutes – I’ll bet that in a few weeks you’ll find you get less winded ascending them and can climb at a much quicker pace – an accomplishment in itself. Also, abstaining from elevator/escalator use may be a nice New Year’s resolution and a perfect start towards a more active lifestyle.

Happy Stair-Climbing!

PJ

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Exercise and Peripheral Artery Disease

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

Like most people, I have been aware of the problems associated with reduced blood flow to the heart for quite some time (angina, heart attacks, etc). However, I recently became aware of a related condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD) when it was diagnosed in a friend of my family. PAD refers to the obstruction of arteries in the arms and legs, and can result in reduced blood flow to muscles below the obstruction. As well as being a risk factor for heart disease, the reduced blood flow associated with PAD can cause significant amounts of pain in the legs when walking even short distances, and can be very debilitating. Not surprisingly given the increased prevalence of risk factors including obesity and diabetes in recent years, the prevalence of PAD is also increasing.

Given the serious impact that PAD has had on my friend's mobility, I was pleased when I came across an article examining the positive influence of exercise on PAD in the latest issue of the Journal of Physiology. Taylor and colleagues blocked the femoral artery in rats, then examined blood flow to muscles below the blockage after three weeks of exercise 'training' or a 3 weeks of being confined to their cage. Both groups developed 'collateral' blood vessels to re-route blood around the obstruction, which is pretty cool in and of itself. However, the exercise training group developed larger collateral vessels than the sedentary group, resulting in significantly increased blood flow to muscles below the obstruction in the exercise training group. Although the rats can't verbalize how they feel, I would expect that with increased blood flow the rats in the exercise group would also feel less pain in their legs than those in the sedentary condition.

I was most excited to see this study because among other things, my acquaintance has begun a daily walking program and their symptoms have improved considerably since their training began. Exercise is not the only answer for problems like PAD, but it's nice to see that something as simple as a walking program can be part of the solution.

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NY governor proposes tax on pop

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 2 Responses

According to yesterday’s news, the Governor of New York has proposed an 18% tax on non-diet drinks and drinks containing less than 70% real fruit juice. The tax, coined rather inappropriately, the “obesity tax”, will mean that while a diet coke costs $1.00, a regular coke of the same size may cost up to $1.18. Exempt from the tax would be milk, fruit juice, diet soda, and water.

The naive prediction is that this tax will reduce consumption of high-calorie drinks by about 5% and help to reduce New York’s obesity levels. The more prominent reason behind the tax is likely to raise over $400 million in the following year and thus help reduce the state’s $15 billion deficit.

This proposal is interesting given that the American Medical Association has previously refused a similar proposal on a federal level.

As Travis and I repeatedly mention, overly-simplistic “solutions” to the obesity epidemic are likely to be totally useless. Increasing the cost of pop by a few cents is not going to lead to substantial reductions in the prevalence of a condition which is influenced by a plethora of factors. Will we ever learn to stop reducing the obesity problem down to pop, a new hormone (remember leptin circa 1990’s), McDonalds, TV, etc.?
PJ

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Bush shows off quick reflexes!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 1 Response
While I discussed Barack Obama's fitness a while back, I failed to note that George W. Bush may also be pretty agile. While the man is obviously unpopular all over the world, the video below shows he's got some quick reflexes - as he dodges a shoe thrown at him by a Iraqi reporter.




PJ

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Active transportation

Monday, December 15, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 2 Responses

Regular readers of our blog will know that Peter and I are frequent readers of two other health blogs - those of Dr Yoni Freedhoff and Dr Arya Sharma, which were recently voted the top 2 Canadian health blogs. They are excellent reading any day of the week, but anyone who enjoyed Peter's post yesterday on financial incentives for weight loss should see Dr Sharma's post on the same topic, which examined the issue from a very different perspective.

I am a firm believer that physical activity needs to be a part of a person's lifestyle in order for it to be maintained over the long-term. One option that I have seen work for several members of my family is active transportation, (e.g. walking, cycling or taking public transit, as opposed to inactive transportation like driving a car). For the past 6 years my parents have walked to work almost every morning, and it is something that they both enjoy and has had a very a positive effect on their health and fitness. I read a very interesting article this morning in the latest issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health which suggests that their experience is from unique.

In this latest issue of JPAH, Dr David Bassett and colleagues at the University of Tennessee and Rutgers University examined the relationships between obesity and active transportation use in developed nations. Not surprisingly, countries that had high rates of active transportation such as Latvia and the Netherlands (where roughly 50% of trips involve active transportation) had far lower rates of obesity than the USA, Australia, and Canada (where less than 20% of trips involve active transportation). What surprised me was just how strongly active transportation predicted obesity rates - active transportation use accounted for over half the variance in obesity rates. That's huge. The study has some limitations - it was cross-sectional, and they weren't able to control for food intake or other variables that are also known to influence obesity rates, but a very interesting finding nonetheless.

I know that active transportation is not feasible for everyone, but for those who can use active transportation to get to work, it makes a whole lot of sense. Even if walking or cycling the whole way to work is not an option, people can often drive part way and walk the rest of the way (what my parents do) or use public transit which often involves walking to and from the bus stop or train station. It's free, more pleasant than being in a car (any car I can afford at least), and its an incredibly simple way to achieve the Canadian physical activity guidelines. And most importantly, it's something that you can work into your lifestyle, which can't be said for many of the fads that Peter and I have blogged about in the past. So if you are looking for a way to incorporate more activity into your life, active transportation is an excellent place to start.

TJS

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Investing in weight-loss results in slim waistlines and bulging wallets

Monday, December 15, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 2 Responses
A new study suggests that monetary reward may be a more potent motivator for behavior change and ultimately, weight-loss, than the commonly touted health benefits.


The Bank of Canada recently declared that the Canadian economy, much like that of the U.S., is officially moving into a recession. Given the current global economic crisis, which sees almost every sector plummeting, there appears to be a dearth of viable investment options (for those who still have any funds to invest). However, the smartest decision during this time of economic turmoil may be to invest in your own weight-loss, or so suggests a study published just last week in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).


Dr. Volpp and colleagues tracked the weight change in 57 obese individuals (30-70 years of age) who were randomized to either a no-treatment control group or to 1 of 2 financial incentive programs (a lottery incentive group, or a deposit incentive group). All participants were instructed to lower their weight (via diet and exercise) by 1 lb per week for the duration of the 16 week intervention, thus aiming for a total target weight-loss of 16 lbs. Individuals in the incentive groups received their financial rewards on a monthly basis, only if they had met or exceeded their target weight loss (1lb/wk). Those that failed to make the weight-loss goal were merely told how much money they would have received if they had been successful, whereas the control group received no reward regardless of their progress.

Over the course of the 4 month intervention individuals in the incentive groups earned an average of approximately $300, in contrast to $0 awarded to those in the control group. Not surprisingly, the average weight loss achieved by those receiving a financial incentive was significantly greater as compared to that of the control group (13-14lbs vs. 4 lbs, respectively). Furthermore, only 10% of individuals in the control group versus approximately 50% of those in the incentive groups achieved the target weight-loss of 16lbs.

However, during a subsequent 3-month follow-up, study participants gained back much of the lost weight after the cessation of the financial incentives – a finding which is common to most, if not all, weight-loss intervention studies.

This study extends findings of a previous investigation in which participants who were offered $14 per percent decrease in weight lost about 5lbs, while those who were offered no compensation lost 2lbs during the 3 month intervention.

So how can any of this be applied in the real-world?


The thinking goes - if an overweight individual has previously had trouble adhering to a diet and/or exercise program, investing some of his/her own money may provide a strong incentive to stay on track in order to avoid losing money – the basic concept of loss aversion. An associated article in Time suggests, for example, handing over $100 to a trusted friend/spouse/family member and signing a contract before embarking on a lifestyle change. This trusted individual is instructed to return the money in full if the goal is achieved, or otherwise to donate your money to a cause that you find distasteful – i.e. NRA if you are Michael Moore.


Thus, for the sake of financial security and health, overweight individuals may want to move their money from their mutual funds to their weight-loss funds.

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The story of the 400 pound 7-year old

Friday, December 12, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 1 Response
Although Travis recently posted on the possible plateauing of the childhood obesity epidemic, the story of Jessica Leonard, the 400 lb 7-yr old, suggests that childhood obesity is not likely to disappear any time soon.



Since that time, Jessica has apparently received medical attention with a focus on increasing energy expenditure, a strict diet, and prescription of some undisclosed medication. Miraculously, as the next video shows she has lost a tremendous amount of weight. However, given the obvious lack of treatment of the mother's obesity - I wonder how sustainable Jessica's weight-loss will be now that she is no longer making headlines as the world's fattest child.



Thanks to our friend and colleague Ryan Graham for suggesting the videos.

Have a great weekend!

PJ

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Surgery vs Lifestyle Change

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
Just a short post today as it's the end of the semester here at Queen's which means that Peter and I have a lot of exams to mark! However, before I get started on the marking I wanted to share an interesting paper that was published on the International Journal of Obesity website earlier this week by Dr DS Bond at Brown University. In it, Dr Bond and colleagues compare weight-loss maintanance in individuals who lost > 10% of body weight using using either surgical (e.g. gastric bypass) or non-surgical (e.g. diet and exercise) interventions. Although both groups regained a similar amount of weight (~1kg over the first year, and ~ 5kg over the second year), their lifestyles during the weight-maintenance period were markedly different. The non-surgical weight-loss group ate breakfast more often and fast food less often, and performed drastically more total, medium and high-intensity physical activity than the surgical weight-loss group. In fact, only a third of the surgical weight loss group met their daily recommended physical activity goals, compared with 60% in the non-surgical weight loss group.

We know that for a given level of obesity, increased physical activity levels are associated with reduced disease risk. Even though both groups had similar success in maintaining their weight loss, it is possible that the non-surgical group is experiencing a greater improvement in metabolic health due to their increased level of physical activity. Unfortunately Dr Bond and colleagues do not report on metabolic risk factors (e.g. insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, plasma triglycerides, etc) in either group, so this question remains unanswered for the time being. However, these results do suggest that individuals who lose weight using non-surgical interventions are more likely to adopt healthy lifestyle choices during the weight-maintenance period than those who lose weight by surgical means.

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Fructose Revisited

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 1 Response

In a recent post I discussed the potential role of fructose in the obesity epidemic. In that post, I detailed how a recent article suggested that fructose may be converted into fat more readily than other sugars. You can imagine my excitement yesterday when the newswire was a twitter with stories proclaiming that "High-fructose corn syrup no worse than sugar". No worse than sugar - hooray! I would personally be more interested if it were found to be better than sugar, but I guess we shouldn't put the bar too high for a molecule that we consume in such large quantities.

The exciting news that fructose is only as bad as sugar comes as a result of a recent supplement to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled "High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask". Five review articles are presented which cover the history and metabolic consequences of high-fructose corn syrup consumption. And in fact, one of these articles does claim that the consumption of fructose sweetened drinks results in greater plasma triglyceride levels than drinks flavoured with glucose. However, others report that high-fructose corn syrup is not "uniquely obesity promoting", and on the whole the articles suggest that fructose consumption is no better or worse than the consumption of table sugar.

I don't dispute any of the findings presented in this supplement to AJCN. In fact, I agree entirely with the assertion that fructose is not uniquely responsible for the obesity epidemic. As I mentioned in my last post on fructose, it is ridiculous to pin the obesity of an individual or a society on one food or lifestyle choice. However, I disagree with the interpretation in the mainstream press that if fructose is only as bad as sucrose, it must therefore be a healthy food choice. I can see why the food industry might spin it that way (I believe I was given a pamphlet with a similar argument at the annual conference of The Obesity Society earlier this year), but I have no idea why anyone else would agree with it. It is a very bad sign when anyone is excited that a food item is no worse than sugar. That's like doing cocaine because it is no worse than heroin.

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Kymaro’s New Body Shaper: an INSTANT cure for abdominal obesity? (part 2)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses

In part one of this series we learned that “Kymaro’s New Body Shaper is the only way to get your figure back!”

Specifically, the Body Shaper is reported to:
- Hide unsightly bulges immediately
- Slim body down 2 sizes in 2 minutes
- Reshape your body due to loss of muscle tone [sic] (No idea what meaning is intended here)

But that’s not all! This miracle garment can also do the following:
- Realign the spine for better posture
- Lower fatigue level
- And provide “More energy!”

Lastly, by reviewing the before and after pictures below, we uncover more stunning Body Shaper benefits, such as:
1. Breast augmentation
2. Anti-depressant effects (focus on facial expression)
3. Ironing/Stretching of clothes
The Body Shaper can be purchased from here for a cost of $39.99. If you want a matching lower body garment to go with the top add another $9.99 to the above. But wait! There’s more! For only $19.99 you can get a second pair of body shaper top and bottoms (read above with excited infomercial tone).


Nevertheless, while I am obviously not a fan of the misguided advertising, if the Body Shaper did in fact help overweight and obese women feel more comfortable and confident – then I am in full support of the product for this purpose. Unfortunately, upon reading customer reviews on a number of websites, the overwhelming response appears to be negative. Refer here, here, or here for specific examples. Common complaints include uncomfortable material, improper sizing, poor fitting, low quality of garment construction. Also, the return policy for the Body Shaper is another peeve among customers as is the high shipping cost.

While this concludes our discussion of Kymaro’s New Body Shaper, please email us (using the “Email Author” tab below this post) with suggestions of other products which you would like us to discuss on future Obesity Panacea posts.

Peter

Related Posts:
1. Slender Shaper: Another Fat Loss Gimmick?
2. The Air Climber: Walking on a Cushion of Hot Air
3. What's the Magic of Leg Magic?

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Kymaro’s New Body Shaper: an INSTANT cure for abdominal obesity? (part 1)

Monday, December 08, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 2 Responses
Do you want to look 20lbs thinner instantly? “That’s right – INSTANTLY!”

“All you need is Kymaro’s New Body Shaper!” Or so claims a fascinating infomercial I’ve had the pleasure of viewing on 2 consecutive weekends (sad but true).

In fact, as a transfixed viewer I quickly learned that “Kymaro’s New Body Shaper is the only way to get your figure back!”

Of course, this claim is prefaced by the weight loss infomercial staple of demonizing the more viable treatment options – most commonly, diet and exercise (“ No more endless dieting or […] complicated exercise programs” ).

This is quickly followed by an absolutely preposterous computer generated animation ‘illustrating’ the effectiveness of the Body Shaper - another favorite tool for pedaling useless products.

And finally, if the mesmerizing animation wasn’t enough to convince the viewer, we are treated to a ‘real-life’ demonstration of Body Shaper’s ability to make “the inches melt away!” However, the use of a young, attractive, and most importantly, very lean female for the purpose of this demonstration is overwhelming perplexing. If anything, in this absurd example, Kymaro’s New Body Shaper may actually add abdominal girth to the model’s almost non-existent waistline.

Again, my biggest issue with the way this product is marketed is that it encourages the perpetuation of an individual’s poor lifestyle habits. Here is a perfect example. Somewhere in the middle of the infomercial, the ‘host’ talks to ‘real’ women (who we are to assume are not paid actresses) in what appears to be a store. The scenario is repeated a number of times throughout, beginning with the overweight women complaining about the way their clothes fit, followed by a completely unreliable baseline measurement of waist circumference. Afterwards all the women try on the Body Shaper, and voila - the 2nd unreliable waist circumference measurement shows reductions of up to 5”.

During one of these segments, a woman’s waist circumference is measured to be 49” – that is, 14” beyond the clinical cut-off for abdominal obesity in women. The host then asks the brilliantly provocative question: “What does 49” mean to you?” “Too many doughnuts”, replies the woman, to which the host rebuts: “Well, you can keep your doughnuts!”

Really?

Is this the best message to be offered to a woman who, based on her abdominal obesity, is at increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and mortality, among others? Wear a constricting girdle but continue living an unhealthy lifestyle – now there’s a strategy for success.

If you are skeptical of my criticism above, I encourage you to view a segment of the infomercial below and judge for yourself. Continue reading here part 2 of my evaluation of Kymaro’s Obsolete Girdle, um, I mean, New Body Shaper.



Peter

Related Posts:
1. Slender Shaper: Another Fat Loss Gimmick?
2. The Air Climber: Walking on a Cushion of Hot Air
3. What's the Magic of Leg Magic?

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What is causing the obesity epidemic?

Friday, December 05, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses
As Peter mentioned in a post earlier this week, I defended my MSc on Tuesday morning. Following my presentation, the very first question I was asked was "What is causing the obesity epidemic?". I gave the stock answers - decreased energy expenditure at work and at home, as well as increased caloric intake and increased reliance on refined foods with poor nutrient density, etc. However, the question made me a little curious, so I decided to look it up after my thesis was over (I'm a nerd...).

The first paper I came to was one by Mark Tremblay and Doug Willms, and it is actually a study for which I was a subject while growing up near the University of New Brunswick! In the paper, Dr's Willms and Tremblay report that overweight and obesity in youth are negatively associated with socioeconomic status and organized sport participation, and positively associated with TV watching and video game playing. Certainly what we would expect, and exactly in line with the answer I gave at my defense.

While these conventional risk factors certainly play an important role, new evidence suggests that other, more interesting factors may also be involved. For example, in a past post I suggested that obesity may act as a social contagion. Further, recent research suggests that in some cases, obesity may actually be caused by a virus! For example, the AD-36 virus has reported to promote obesity in chickens, mice, and non-human primates. If true, we could someday have a vaccine to reduce the risk of future obesity. So while it appears that my 'stock' answer at my defense was correct, there are also other less conventional options which hold promise for the future.

While we can't do anything (as yet) about virus induced obesity, there are programs that promote healthy lifestyle choices. One of those is SOGO active (www.sogoactive.com), which is being put on jointly by Participaction and Coca-Cola Canada. Youth can log their daily physical activity levels on the website, and those who maintain or increase those levels have the chance to become a torch bearer for the 2010 Olympics. I know some people may question the involvement of Coca-Cola, but I highly recommend people check out the site, and please pass it along to any youth (or program providers) who might be interested.

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A novel weight-loss strategy for children

Thursday, December 04, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses
Although yesterday Travis described that obesity prevalence in adolescents and children in the U.S. have not increased significantly since 1999, despite much effort on behalf of various organizations, parents, and health care professionals – the numbers have not declined either.

Additionally, if the argument that US youth have reached their genetic ceiling for obesity explains the above plateau, then Canada still has some catching up to do, as our obesity prevalence tend to lag behind that our neighbours.

Thus, novel methods for helping reduce obesity among children should maintain high priority among health care professionals. Another of Time magazine's top medical stories of 2008 suggests one such novel method: reading.

The study in question was conducted at Duke University, the results of which were presented at the recent Obesity Society meeting in Phoenix (a meeting both Travis and I attended but unfortunately missed said presentation). In their study, researchers assigned 64 obese girls ages 9 to 13 to read either a book featuring an overweight protagonist who learns to make healthier lifestyle choices, a book that did not feature an overweight protagonist, or no book at all – in addition to all girls being part of the “Healthy Lifestyles Program” at Duke Children's Hospital. Interestingly, at the end of the 6 month intervention, the girls who read the story containing the overweight heroine lost more weight than the girls in the other 2 groups.

Thus, while parents and health professionals alike generally prescribe an active lifestyle for the reduction of obesity in youth, here is an example of a fairly ‘inactive’ activity which may improve the success of various weight-loss strategies.

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Have obesity rates reached a plateau?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008 Author: Travis Saunders 1 Response
Time magazine has recently come out with a list of the top medical stories from 2008. Not surprisingly, the list includes several obesity-related stories. One of the more interesting items suggests that obesity rates in American children and adolescents may have reached a plateau. The report focuses on a paper published by Cynthia Ogden in JAMA earlier this year, which found that obesity rates in American youth did not change between 1999 and 2006. This is in contrast to the dramatic increases in obesity rates reported between 1988 and 2000.

So what is causing this plateau? It is possible that it is due to increased awareness of the importance of exercise and healthful diet in youth, and that that tide is finally starting to turn on the obesity epidemic. The Time article offers a different viewpoint, writing that "Experts say that the leveling off may be due not to better diet and exercise but to the possibility that we've hit a sort of genetic ceiling, with the entire population of children susceptible to gaining too much weight having done so." That seems like a rather morbid way to look at things, but the idea certainly has some merit (unfortunately the "experts" mentioned in the Time article are not cited, nor is the point elaborated any further). And finally, it may not be a plateau at all. Dr Ogden used a nationally representative sample to derive her findings, but it is still just one study; as yet no others have confirmed a plateau in other nations or age groups. As Diane Finegood of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research suggests, it may just be a "statistical aberration", and the next major survey could show that obesity rates are once again on the rise. And let's not forget that even if obesity rates are not increasing, they are at least holding steady (approximately 32% of youth had a high BMI in Dr Ogden's most recent study), at a rate which is far too high. But since we're approaching the holidays, let's look at the glass as half-full, and take heart from the fact that at least obesity rates in youth don't seem to be getting any worse.

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Master Travis!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 2 Responses
Today's obesity news: our very own Mr. Travis Saunders is now officially Master Travis. That's right - Travis successfully defended his Master's thesis this morning.

To ensure that our readers get some relevant obesity info for today, I have included an interesting video which can teach you to exercise that area of the body that is so often neglected - the face. Doing the recommended exercises 45 minutes a day will not burn too many calories, but it may frighten children - enjoy!


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Weight loss without magic.

Monday, December 01, 2008 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses
In previous posts, Travis and I have come down fairly hard on the claims of various overly simplistic cures for obesity – such as eating Triscuits, or popping an Accelis pill before bedtime. Not to worry, we will keep going after such claims and exposing their flaws (stay posted for commentary on another infomercial I saw this weekend). Nevertheless, the notion that some gadget or potion can slim your waistline and make you healthy – without the ‘hassle’ of ‘painful’ exercise and strict dieting – is unfortunately untrue. Remember, if a magical cure for obesity was in existence – physicians would likely prescribing it to all obese individuals.

Thus, I am encouraged when I read realistic stories about obesity treatment, such as in this article recently posted by CNN. In this story, Karen Daniel, a woman who originally weighed approximately 375lbs loses 175 lbs over 2 years. You may wonder whether Triscuits, Accelis, or even the Slender Shaper were responsible for this tremendous weight loss success – but, alas, no.

In fact, Daniel lost all that weight through exercise and diet – no magic! Today Daniel exercises nine times a week (doing aerobic and resistance training twice a day with a personal trainer on 3 days/week combined with group classes on another 3days/week) and abides by a strict diet. And even though she considers this process to be the hardest thing she has ever done, she believes the struggle was worth it given the attained benefits, which include: “attending sporting events with her family, white-water rafting, kayaking, flying on an airplane without buying two tickets or using a seatbelt extender or simply being able to look down and see her feet.”

Stories like Karen’s always help to remind us that while weight-loss is not a simple endeavor, applying effective strategies – as difficult as they may be, will bring about benefit. Karen hopes to inspire others to take the first step towards a healthy lifestyle, by documenting her progress on her website, http://www.ihavebones.com/, which I encourage our readers to check out.

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Peter's Travel Adventures on PhD Nomads

About Us

We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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